By Jim O'Leary
An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.
Nov. 11, 2002
Poor but proud, but more proud than poor
Malachi 3:3 says, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."
This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study group, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and he let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were the hottest, so as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, and then she thought again about the verse that says "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that, yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and said, "Oh, that's easy when I see my image in it."
(I want to thank Margaret Tucker for forwarding this to me.)
* * *
For the following advice, I wish to thank AARP magazine.
In an article by Roger McElvey called "Fiscal Fitness" in the November/December 2002 issue, he gives us some tips on how to be cheap.
I grew up in a generation in which frugality was considered a virtue. My parents and the parents of all of my Waverly friends had no choice. They had to be frugal, even if it meant the humiliation of using surplus commodities (a New Deal program, like the Food Stamp program later).
We kept our surplus commodities hid in the cellar (flour and so on) as if it was illegal alcohol (and I won't tell you about that, even to this day). We were poor but proud, and if the truth be told we were more proud than we were poor.
I want to admit up front that I still practice these tips from the AARP magazine "Modern Maturity" as well as I can.
Of course I stop short of stealing bath towels from motels. (The motels we stay in have bath towels that aren't worth stealing. I think they are manufactured by sweatshop laborers in Bangladesh working for five cents an hour. In fact, our motels furnish bath towels so sandy and rough they will make your skin bleed.)
I am not quoting verbatim from the article, so I don't think AARP can sue me for violating a copyright law. Besides, I thought of being cheap before AARP ever was invented.
By the way, an AARP membership can save you 10 percent at almost all motels, even the ones with good bath towels, the soft and fluffy kind.
AARP stands for American Association of Retired Persons. You are eligible for membership if you are 50 and over. Since another person turns 60 every 11 seconds in the US and many more turn 50, this is quite a market.
If you visit any casino or a Shoney's Restaurant on senior citizen's buffet breakfast day, you will know this is true.
The first tip is on how to become rich (and you won't believe this one.)
· Never throw away a bar of soap.
Guess what? Soap costs money. You don't need to take motel soap any more. Just keep your own and when the sliver gets small, combine it with another sliver.
Henry Block, the co-founder of H & R Block, the billion dollar tax preparation firm, came up with this idea. "I'm glad to spend money," he says, "but I think it's a terrible way to live to just throw money away."
· Watch the thermostat.
Multi-millionaire John Bogle, CEO of The Vanguard Group, says he uses a subway and not a taxi when he is in New York (your Corpus Christi cheapskate, Jim O'Leary, rides the city bus and meets all kinds of interesting people.)
Mr. Bogle turns his thermostat down to 55 degrees at night in the winter and 60 degrees in the daytime in the winter ("I like wearing sweaters," he says).
He buys a watch for $14. "It keeps just as good a time as a Rolex," he says.
He also likes to drink wine now and then. He buys "a good gallon bottle" for $16.99.
This man, I would guess, is what they call a very cheap date.
· Turn out the lights.
Muriel Siebert, CEO of Siebert & Co., is fanatically frugal. She buys fluorescent bulbs only. "You get the same light at a fraction of the cost," she says.
Jim Kramer, radio host of "Real Money" goes around turning off lights in his house and insists that others do the same.
"I want to teach my children this notion of thrift," he says. The children, unfortunately, were not interviewed for this article.
· Save coins.
Ric Edelman, who wrote a book called "Discover the Wealth Within You," says "I never spend coins. If you spend only paper money and save up your coins, you will come up with $20 to $40 a month without trying."
I know this to be true from my own experience.
Somebody at the high school where my wife Jeanne taught did a survey on soda pop consumption. They were trying to find out about caffeine consumption, but ended up finding out about all the money spent.
The students were putting around $2 per day per person in change into the vending machines, mostly for caffeine-spiked soda pop. We all know that teenagers are the last of the big spenders, but this was stunning.
That's how much they spent just to quench their thirst when the school had water fountains all over the place. Well, a lot of us senior citizen casino afficionados are right behind them, only it's imported beer we drink.
One of my nephews paid for his honeymoon with the coins he had saved during the year before his wedding. I don't know how his wife paid for her honeymoon. I don't think she married him for his money.
When you go to the movies, bring your own. If you don't like popcorn, stuff your pockets with some candy. Popcorn now goes for $4 for a small bag in the movie theater nearest you. Soft drinks start at $3.50.
· Phone cards
I suppose everyone by now knows about phone cards and what a saving they are for long distance calls. Sam's Club (of which I am not a member) sells phone cards with pre-paid long distance calling cards for about 3-and-a-half cents a minute.
Why am I not a member of Sam's Club? Because I would come away with $100 worth of bargains on things I didn't need in the first place.
When shopping, a good question to ask is "Do I need this?" Don't ask the question, "Do I want this?" Of course you do.
Remember the old Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts?" The first line goes, ""Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free . . . " Same thing free and simple.
Legend has it that someone once tried to give St. Francis of Assisi a Bible and he turned it down. He said "No. If I get a Bible, then I will have to get a table to put it on and then a chair and then a candle and then a house . . . no."
In this whole article from AARP, I think the sentence I liked best was, "Becoming financially frugal doesn't just make you a wealthier person, it makes you a better person too."
* * *
Glen Keener sent me this IQ test, which I flunked. Try your luck at it.
Q. What do you put in a toaster?
A. The answer is bread. If you said toast, then give up now and go do something else before you hurt yourself. If you said bread, then go to the next question.
Q. Say "silk" five times. Now spell silk. What do cows drink?
A. Cows drink water. If you said milk, please do not attempt the next question. Your brain is obviously overstressed and you may even overheat.
It may be that you need to content yourself with reading something more appropriate, such as "Children's World." If you said water, then proceed to the next question.
Q. What are greenhouses made from?
A. Greenhouses are made from glass. If you said green bricks, what the heck are you doing here reading these questions? If you said glass, then go on to the next question.
Q. Without using a calculator: You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven in Wales. In London, 17 people get on the bus. In Reading, six people get off the bus and nine people get on.
In Swindon, two people get off and four get on. In Cardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get on. In Swansea, three people get off and five people get on.
In Carmethen, six people get off and three get on. You then arrive at Milford Haven. Now, what was the name of the bus driver?
A. Oh, for heaven's sake . . . it was you!
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